Where to start when you need a name

So you’ve got a thing that needs a name.  It could be a new company, a vision, a product, a piece of software, an algorithm, or something completely new that doesn’t even have a name for it yet.

When it comes to naming and the naming process, how does one start?

It’s a fair question. Our sincere answer, and how we approach all client projects is “start where you are.” What that means is: teams and brands are often starting from very different places along the naming journey, and to not take this into account can mean utter ruin.

Well, maybe not utter ruin. But it could mean time wasted and money lost.

In fact, not taking stock of where you are starting from is the first Classic Naming Pitfall. 

To outline the entire process would be a very long article, indeed, so what I’m going to focus on right now is the Pre-Work. This is where most projects go off the rails before they even get started, so you want to make sure you’ve got this part covered before you start the creative fun part of hosting brainstorming sessions or honing in on your name. 

This list of naming pre-work will help you and your team troubleshoot any stage of the process you might have skipped over, and then confidently begin where you are:

Objectives and alignment in doing the project in the first place

Nothing kills a naming project faster than when your CMO likes the current name and doesn’t want to change it. This is the first step in the people part of people-centric naming, and it’s critical.

Brand strategy

Are you clear on your brand in general? It doesn’t matter whether the thing you are naming is a product, a technology, or the company itself, you should be clear what the master brand is and what it stands for. The thing you are naming lives under this brand (or, in the case of company naming, the brand itself), so it’s important to be clear about your larger brand objectives and personality before settling on a name.

Nomenclature audit/assessment

What is the relationship of what you’ve created to other names/brands/products etc? Does this thing you’re naming belong to a family of brands? Are there patterns or guidelines already in place? Those are just some of the questions to ask as you make sure the name you come up with works in context with the rest of your nomenclature or portfolio.

Positioning for the thing being named

How is the thing you’re naming positioned in the marketplace? You’re not sure? Then don’t try to name it, buster (exception: arbitrary names). That’s like not knowing whether that protein-rich edible substance you’re trying to sell will be targeted to millennial dog owners as a vegan-friendly option for fido, or as a Soylent replacement for fido’s owners themselves! ;)

Seriously, woe to thee who doesn’t do their pre-work. Here’s what can happen if you don’t.

All of these areas of pre-work require alignment among the people you’re working with. Honestly, people alignment is the secret to naming success. Imagine trying to decide your child’s name without aligning with your partner, if you have one. Imagine trying to run a business when each department has a different possibly conflicting agenda. Imagine building a cathedral without agreement on what God you’re worshiping. 

Alignment is like air: it’s one of those things most of us take for granted, but if you don’t have it, you really notice.

That’s why we do more than just give our clients a list of names to choose from. We focus our process on alignment at every step of the journey to make sure we save you time, money and the sometimes critical cost of misunderstandings.

Need help with strategy, naming, or brand development? Get in touch!

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